Eric Kayser knows his bread.
He’s the baker behind Maison Kayser, a boulangerie that opened in Paris in 1996 and became such a success, even in that competitive landscape, that 20 more locations soon opened in Paris, and now there are more than 80 locations worldwide, including a bakery/cafe in New York, with two more on the way. We had the opportunity this week to speak with the man himself at his Upper East Side location, and he opened up about the secrets behind his world-famous baguettes, his additional upcoming New York locations, and lots more.
"The secret to a great baguette is time, it can’t be rushed," Kayser said. "We start work on our baguettes a day in advance, because they need at least 10 hours minimum to ferment and rise. Perfection cannot be rushed."
Another secret? Quality ingredients. "You need to use natural flour, with no preservatives," he added. He uses local ingredients whenever possible (aside from the flour, which is the same at every location), and contrary to popular belief, the water used doesn’t affect the bread’s flavor at all.
If you’re hoping to attempt to make a baguette at home, Kayser advises against it. "It’s very difficult to make at home, because it’s so complicated," he said. "The fermentation takes time, you need to know how to properly shape it, need the proper environment to let it proof, you need to know how to cut it the right way so it rises properly, and the oven needs to be at the perfect temperature." For those committed, though, he advises starting out with a boule, which is a simple round loaf, instead of a baguette.
In this carb-conscious day and age, though, there are plenty of people who have sworn off bread in favor of Atkins-style diets. When asked if he had anything to say to those scared of cards, Kayser laughed. "Bread is one of the world’s most unique foods," he said. "You can eat it every day and live off just bread. Some people say that bread isn’t good for you. Some people say that meat isn’t good for you, some people say that fish isn’t good for you; for every food people will say it’s not good for you. In France, we eat bread with every meal and we’re completely normal!"
Kayser has two more New York outposts and a cookbook in the works, and while he’s still tight-lipped about specific details, we can expect to see the cookbook within a few months, and both of the new locations (one on 21st and Broadway and another on 40th Street, right across from Bryant Park), will be opening at the end of April or in early May. The Bryant Park location will be smaller, with no seating, but the Broadway outpost will be very similar to the Upper East Side one, with an open view of the ovens and baker.